When new inventions are introduced and pitched, there is often talk of utility patents and design patents. A single product or invention can be awarded both a utility and a design patent, as they are two completely different entities that provide different types of protection.
A utility patent:
- protects the function of the invention or product
- is the most common type of patent
- provides the most broad protection
- takes two or three years before it provides protection
- can protect multiple variations of the product
A design patent:
- protects the appearance of the invention or product
- is cheaper to acquire than a utility patent
- only takes one to two years before providing protection
- does not protect any functional features of the product
- is very specific in protection (someone can get around the patent by changing something very small and ornamental on the product)
Not all products require both types of protection, but some certainly do. It’s important to evaluate your product idea and decide what features are most important to protect. Most inventors want to protect the function of their product idea, so utility patents are almost always chosen first. At the same time, some design features are so unique and so special, certain inventors may choose to ensure that their design is protected. Choosing to apply for both a utility and a design patent can be a complicated process, so patent attorneys are recommended to prevent any loopholes or administrative mistakes.
Both types of patents can be applied for at the US Patent Office, and products will be labeled as “patent pending” while the application is being reviewed.